ISIS Corner: Is the U.S. Lilly-Dipping in Syria?

Lilly-Dipping: A Term used to describe a person who does not place their entire paddle in the water when paddling. In Military circles, Lilly-Dipping is synonymous with the phrase “Doing something Half-Ass” Or Not putting forth 100% effort.

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The great, long-awaited counterattack against ISIS has finally begun. The offensive that spans Syria and western Iraq is targeting the ISIS-held cities of Raqqa and Mosul, Iraq’s second-largest city.

For a variety of reasons, the much ballyhooed “final offensive” against ISIS is moving with all the speed of a medieval army of drunken foot soldiers and all the audacity of a lady’s garden party.

As a former soldier and war correspondent, I find the spectacle both pathetic and weird.  Back in my army days, our tough sergeants used to call such behavior “lilly-dipping.” There’s no risk that this pathetic campaign will go down in the annals of military history.

In fact, the whole business smells to high heaven.

In the west, the Syrian government and Kurdish troops, stiffened by US, British and French special forces, and backed by US close air support, are inching towards ISIS-controlled Raqqa, a dreary, one-camel town that sits on some strategic roads. Syrian troops just retook Palmyra, once the desert capital of the fabled Queen Zenobia. The battle was hardly a second Stalingrad: ISIS fighters piled into their pickups and skedaddled.

Washington has been slowly massing Iraqi and US forces for the campaign against Mosul, an important city of  64,000 that is the gateway to Iraq’s northern oilfields. Arabs and Kurds have been battling over Mosul for decades.  Iraq’s Kurds, now allied to the US, are set on cementing their hold on Mosul and its oil-producing region…and probably expelling many of its Arab inhabitants. The Turks, who once ruled this region, are angry as hornets and fearful that an independent Kurdish state may be proclaimed at Mosul.

To get to Mosul, all the US-led forces need do is start their vehicles and drive a few hours up the highway to that city. Iraq has excellent roads thanks to its murdered president, Saddam Hussein. US-led Iraqi government and Kurdish forces are similarly close to Mosul from their bases in western Iraq.

If Germans or Russians were running this mini-war, they would have taken Mosul last year.

What strikes me as so curious is that in reality the dreaded ISIS is little more than a bunch of 20-something kids without any military training or professional command except for some veterans of Saddam’s disbanded army.

ISIS has almost no artillery and only light anti-aircraft guns. Their supplies are scanty; their communications listened into by nearly everyone. US, British, French, warplanes buzz overhead, ready to blast anything that moves in the flat, empty desert terrain.

In WWII the Germans would have sent a  couple of jeeps commanded by sergeants roaring into Mosul, ordering its defenders “hands up, thrown down your weapons, and surrender. Schnell!”

This how the audacious Germans took bridges and towns across Holland, Belgium and Yugoslavia. A single jeep load of German soldiers reportedly took Belgrade, the Yugoslav capital.

The notion that a rabble of 20-something ISIS kids can stand up to highly trained heavily armed western troops and their native auxiliaries is absurd. ISIS is what the Ottomans used to call, “bashi-bazooks,” armed street thugs used for looting and attacking civilians.

The small Russian air contingent in Syria has proven far more effective than the US and its allies. The mighty US Air Force has continued pinprick attacks on ISIS positions in what has become a pantomime war. It’s almost as if the western powers are playing make-believe in Syria.

Perhaps they are.  The Saudis and Turks, both very close US allies, have been arming and supplying ISIS in order to topple the Damascus-based Shia regime of President Bashar Assad. Washington has gone along with this covert fight while lamenting the terrors of “terrorism.”

Washington’s strategy in Syria has become so comically inept that the Pentagon and CIA are actually backing rival Syrian jihadist groups who are fighting with one another. The Russians are mocking Washington. Who can blame them.

The Obama administration is clearly reluctant to use “force majeure” against ISIS.

So it continues to tip-toe and lilly-dip in Syria and Iraq, likely assuring that the US will eventually get stuck in another big Mideast conflict.

Read the Original Article at LEW Rockwell

Putin’s Attack Choppers and Merc’s are Winning the War for Assad

Russia's President Vladimir Putin inspects Mi-24 ground-attack helicopter as he visits a military airbase in the city of Korenovsk, about 1200 km (750 miles) south of Moscow, on June 14, 2012. Russia said today it is not making any new deliveries of attack helicopters to Syria and has only carried out repairs of helicopters sent there many years ago. AFP PHOTO/ RIA-NOVOSTI / POOL / MIKHAIL KLIMENTYEV (Photo credit should read MIKHAIL KLIMENTYEV/AFP/GettyImages)

The George W. Bush parallel was lost on very few analysts when Vladimir Putin proudly announced that he was withdrawing a significant amount of Russia’s forces from Syria because their “mission is accomplished.” The announcement came just four days after the Atlantic published an overview of “The Obama Doctrine,” wherein U.S. President Barack Obama told journalist Jeffrey Goldberg that Russia was “bleeding,” “overextended,” and that Putin had made a terrible mistake. In both Syria and Ukraine, Obama argued, the Russian ruler had pursued policies that made his country weaker.

“The notion that somehow Russia is in a stronger position now, in Syria or in Ukraine, than they were before they invaded Ukraine or before he had to deploy military forces to Syria is to fundamentally misunderstand the nature of power in foreign affairs or in the world generally. Real power means you can get what you want without having to exert violence,” the U.S. president said.

Yet there was Putin, proudly proclaiming the opposite. According to him, Russia could draw down its mission in Syria because it had achieved its goals. The White House, and the U.S. intelligence community, appeared completely surprised at the announcement of Russia’s drawdown. Once again, Vladimir Putin had defied American expectations and seemingly came out on top.

Putin’s announcement was filled with lies and distortions, but one glaring truth underscored his words — unlike Bush’s now-infamous declaration from the deck of the USS Abraham Lincoln, the Russian president indeed may have accomplished his mission.

Read the Remainder at Foreign Policy

How NATO Can Disrupt Russia’s New Way of War

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Here are a few things the West can do against Moscow’s potent combo of special forces and electronic warfare.

The Ukrainian soldiers peered over the cold dirt edge of their trench. The artillery had abated, but the whine of a nearby spotter UAV promised its imminent return. In the distance, they could see camouflaged spetsnaz moving into position with suppressed Vintorez marksman rifles. Looking at his radio, a lieutenant dared to hope. “Aleksei, you see this? Radio’s working. Maybe a break in the jamming.” “Is that really a good thing?” his sergeant responded. “Go ahead and call, that’s what they want. The Russians will hear you first and send their thermobaric regards. That is if the spetsnaz don’t get here first.” The young officer slumped. His comms gear was useless; he and his men were cut off and alone.

Much has been written about Russia’s innovative concepts of operations in Ukraine and Syria, variously dubbed “hybrid” or “non-linear” war, but specific tactics have received far less scrutiny than they deserve. A look, in particular, at Russia’s use of electronic warfare (EW) and special operations forces (SOF) suggests ways that U.S. and other NATO forces might prepare to counter them.

Technology and new EW doctrines have accelerated thedecades-old competition between active attack systems and countermeasures, shortening the evolutionary cycle from weeks and months to mere hours. In The Nature and Content of New-Generation War, sometimes described as a “how-to manual” for the seizure of Crimea, two senior Russian military officers note the importance of EW in the Gulf War and assert the need for sustained “electronic knockdown” attacks in future conflicts. They recommend that Russian ground forces “be continually improved and equipped with…EW capabilities.”

The positioning of EW forces in the Russian order-of-battleunderscores their importance. Every military district houses an independent EW brigade, supplemented by strategic battalions with specialized EW equipment and a special independent EWbrigade carrying the title “Supreme Main Command” (only two other units in the Russian Armed Forces reportedly carry this title).

In Ukraine, Russia frequently jams its enemies’ tactical communications through a variety of means. During the initial Crimean seizure, cellphones in the area were reportedlyjammed by Russian warships. As the conflict moved to the Donbas, pro-Ukrainian and OSCE UAVs found their data links persistently jammed. Further, Russian UAVs that can carry theLeyer-3 jammer and direct artillery fire have been spotted inUkraine and Syria. Where Ukrainian forces have acquired encrypted radios, Russian EW troops hone in on their stronger signal to geolocate their position. These and many similar tactics enable Russia to erode its adversaries’ intelligence-gathering, communications, and command and control.

Russian EW gear may even threaten strategic collection platforms. For instance, the Murmansk-BN long-range jammer was recently deployed to Crimea, and the Krasukha-4 advancedEW system has been observed in bothUkraine and Syria. Even though the technical capabilities of these two systems are likely exaggerated for propaganda purposes, they are believed to have the potential to interfere with low-earth orbit spy satellites, airborne surveillance platforms, and other collection systems. In any case, their deployment certainly allows them to prove their capabilities against advanced U.S. and NATO platforms.

Russia also uses its EW capabilities to amplify the effectiveness of its special operations forces, the “little green men” used to such noteworthy effect in Ukraine. In his famous article on hybrid warfare, Gen. Valery Gerasimov asserts that SOF and internal opposition are used “to create a permanently operating front through the entire territory of the enemy state…” To the authors of The Nature and Content of New-Generation War, SOF are maneuverable shock infantry that gather targeting information for Russian strikes and “roll over” weakened enemies. Retired Colonel-General Anatoly Zaitsev writes how the ultimate goal of SOF “is to destroy the enemy’s critical facilities and disrupt or destroy his forces’ systems.” Russia’s renewed interest in SOF is further illustrated by the creation of the elite Komanda Spetsial’nikh Operatsiy (KSO) command and deployment of various SOF forces in Ukraine and Syria.

It’s hard to comprehensively track Russian SOF, but they have been observed operating throughout Ukraine. At the beginning of the conflict, KSO and naval spetsnaz units seized several strategic sites, including airports, surface-to-air missile batteries, Ukrainian military facilities, and the Crimean parliament building. As the conflict shifted to the Donbas, otherSOF elements were deployed to protect Russian technical trainers, instill control over the separatists’ chain of command, and train and support separatist fighters.

In Syria, the Russian SOF deployment is more ambiguous and less overt. KSO elements have recently been“redeployed” from Ukraine to help coordinate Russian airstrikes. In addition, “highly-secretive” Zaslon SOFpersonnel have been deployed to guard sensitive Russian equipment, personnel, and information. Additional SOF activity is likely as Russia’s involvement in Syria expands.

Moscow has proven adept at using EW and SOF in concert to fragment and slow adversaries’ strategic decision-making. While “little green men” secure key locations and train local forces, electronic-warfare forces distort ISR collection by adversaries and third parties, limiting their ability to project an accurate counter-narrative to inform confused domestic audiences and a divided international community. And even when a defender does manage to grasp the situation, RussianEW attacks on their command, control, communications, and intelligence disrupts their response.

Nations threatened by Russia’s hybrid warfare can strengthen their resilience through investing in two areas. First, build stronger and more redundant C3I by encrypting radio, data links, and satellite communications, and developing promising new technologies such as cognitive EW. Although Russia’s advanced EW capabilities can attack nearly any system, redundancy can limit their impact. Second, improve the ability to monitor and understand the battlespace by improving tacticalISR. UAVs are key: hand-launched ones, medium-altitude drones with greater endurance, and airborne ISR platforms with electro-optical/infrared sensors and signals intelligence payloads—all of which must be supported by secure data links.

Yet since no single platform or system provides a silver-bullet solution to hybrid warfare, the U.S. and its NATO partners must explore developing new operating concepts; for example, ground forces should be prepared to mimic the U.S. Navy’s “emissions control” by operating in the absence of a data network. They must increase joint training against conventional and unconventional Russian military scenarios, allowing NATO to strengthen its response, practice its interoperability, and and signal its defensive resolve. Ultimately, they must learn how to assess their own prowess, doctrine, strategy and tactics against an adversary whose expertise in hybrid warfare is growing by the day.

Read the Original Article at Defense One

Clash of the Titans: Will Syria be the beginning of WWIII?

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Defense Secretary Ash Carter says a key Persian Gulf ally has agreed to send special forces soldiers to Syria to assist in the development of local Sunni Arab fighters focused on recapturing Raqqa, the Islamic State group’s capital.

Carter made the comment after meeting Friday at his Brussels hotel with his counterpart from the United Arab Emirates. Carter declined to say how many Emirati special forces would go to Syria. He said they would be part of an effort led by the United States and bolstered by Saudi special forces to train and enable local Arab fighters who are motivated to recapture Raqqa.

The US war plan for fighting the Islamic State in Syria and Iraq is designed to unseat the extremists in Raqqa and Mosul, which is the group’s main stronghold in northern Iraq.

The comments came as Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev warned other nations against committing their troops to a ground action in Syria, saying it would only exacerbate the conflict.

Medvedev, speaking in an interview with the German newspaper Handelsblatt, the text of which was released by his office Friday, said “a ground operation draws everyone taking part in it into a war.”

Commenting on a Saudi proposal to send troops to Syria and the possibility of US involvement in ground action, Medvedev said there wouldn’t be a quick victory, rather a “permanent war.”

Read the Remainder at Times of Israel

Russia Using the 4th Dimension of Warfare (Space) to Gain the Upper Hand in the Syrian War

While Space has been called the final frontier, it is also an untapped resource in regards to warfare. Why is America always last to know in these matters while China and Russia are first in line? The answer is quite simple: BHO. -SF

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Russia is employing a significant portion of its space assets to gather intelligence and conduct airstrikes in Syria, underscoring Moscow’s reliance on the military use of spacecraft, according to reports.

Valery Gerasimov, chief of the general staff for Russia’s military, said last month that Moscow is directing 10 satellites, including some with civilian uses, to conduct reconnaissance in Syria, locate targets, and enhance communications among Russian armed forces, the Daily Beast reported. Those assets constitute more than 10 percent of Moscow’s space warfare systems.

“Ten imagery and electronic warfare reconnaissance satellites, including civilian-use spacecraft, have been involved in reconnaissance,” in Syria, Gerasimov told reporters.

One Russian propaganda outlet boasted that “Russia now fields one of the largest and most effective satellite groups in the world, and it has reached a peak of activity amid the military operations in Syria.”

The Kremlin has used its satellites to claim that Turkey is facilitating ISIS oil trade, releasing images that allegedly show the terrorist group’s oil tankers traveling into Turkey. Turkey has denied those charges. Tensions remain high between the two nations after the Turkish air force shot down a Russian jet last month and claimed that it had violated Turkish airspace.

The world’s leading militaries, including U.S. armed forces, increasingly rely on satellites to collect intelligence and facilitate operations among various branches. According to the Union of Concerned Scientists, the United States possesses the world’s largest collection of spacecraft with more than 400 satellites, about half of which can be used for military purposes. Russia is second with 89 satellites, followed by China with 35.

U.S. Air Force Space Command did not respond to a request for comment about Russia’s use of satellites in Syria.

U.S. defense officials have raised concerns about Russia and China’s development of anti-satellite weapons systems, which could disrupt operations by the militaries of adversaries and create debris clouds that threaten all spacecraft. Both nations have tested their versions of direct ascent anti-satellite missiles in the last two months.

Gen. John Hyten, commander of Air Force Space Command, said last week that Russia and China’s construction of “kinetic energy anti-satellite weapons” poses long-term problems for space travel.

“It creates an environment that will be there for decades, if not centuries,” he said. “And you can’t get rid of it.”

“So I don’t want to go down that path, and Russia and China are going down that path,” he added.

China destroyed one of its own satellites in 2007 in its first successful anti-satellite weapons test, an exercise that produced thousands of particles in Earth’s orbit and threatened hundreds of spacecraft.

While Russian President Vladimir Putin has claimed that his forces are only targeting ISIS and terrorist groups in Syria, U.S. military officials say Russia has continued to mostly strike rebel groups—including some backed by the United States—in order to prop up Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad. Aid workers say Russian airstrikes, guided by satellites, have worsened the humanitarian crisis in Syria and led to more civilian deaths in a conflict that has already claimed more than 200,000 lives.

Recent Russian strikes in northern Syria near Turkey, which have escalated since the downing of its warplane, have struck border crossings for humanitarian aid, grain silos, bakeries, and hospitals. Some have accused Russia of deliberately targeting civilian infrastructure to punish the rebel fighters that also live and use supplies in these areas.

“Of course, it is impossible for us to have certainty, but the frequency with which bombs are falling in hospitals or very close to hospitals is enough to make it really seem that, yes, they are targeting hospitals,” a Doctors Without Borders official told the Washington Post.

Read the Original Article at Free Beacon